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Catch up with the legend that is Shaun Tomson, in N.Z.




Interviews & Profiles

Catch up with the legend that is Shaun Tomson in New Zealand 

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 23 January, 2009 : - - BUSTIN’ DOWN THE DOOR will screen at selected surf spots across New Zealand as announced this week, including:

Friday 23rd, Saturday 24th January Paramount Cinema Wellington
Friday 23rd, Sunday 25th January Hollywood Cinema Sumner
Saturday 24th, Sunday 25th January Rialto Cinemas Dunedin
Sunday 25th, Monday 26th January Rialto Cinemas Newmarket

Stay tuned, as more dates and locations will be announced soon for this scorching summer hit.

In the meantime Surfersvillage  partners Surfco caught up with the legend that is Shaun Tomson:
You co-produced the movie 'Bustin Down The Door' based on the cult book, How did this come about?
I thought it was a great story, it is different to the Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew Autobiography called Bustin Down The Door. The movie takes it's title from an article Rabbit wrote in 1976 that talks about the winter of 1975 and what us young guys had to do in order to get recognized by going to Hawaii, busting down the door and being successful. This article got a lot of antagonism by the locals in Hawaii by somehow underlining the culture and heritage. Certainly this was not the intention of the article. If anyone ever reads the article again it does not coincide with this but there was a perception. The movie details what we had to do in order to be successful in Hawaii, what happened once we became successful and how all this morphed into pro surfing and the creation of the surfing industry. The underlining message is if you’re a young bloke, how important it is to follow your dreams regardless of the hot water it can get you into!

You were known as the 'Free Ride Generation'. How many surfers took on this outlook of going hitting Hawaii hard?
The movie is about 4 guys from Australia, 2 guys from South Africa The Aussie guys were Mark Richards, Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew, Ian Cains and Peter Townsend from South Africa myself and my cousin Mark Tomson. There was a great cavelry amongst us. We all met for the first time in 1974. I met MR and Rabbit for the first time when we were vying for the Smirnoff Pro one of the biggest events of the time. After our paths crossed at this event we went on to become good friends. After the movie called Free Ride we became known as the Free Ride Generation. There was about half a dozen of us going really hard in Hawaii that was not to say the Hawaiian surfers were not surfing hard. Coming from the Southern Hemisphere we had the notion we were really sports crazy and we wanted to succeed and very obsessed with success and winning. We also had the vision of surfing becoming a sport not just used for leisure. It all happened over this short period of about a year.

The surf style you took to Hawaii was very different?
The style we had was a lot more radical and a lot more aggressive, more manoeuvre orientated. I think at the time Hawaiian surf had a very classical approach, very beautiful, very subtle certainly very courageous. We were breaking new ground at Pipeline, we were the first guys to start moving on the face of Pipeline which I still think is one of the most dangerous breaks in the World. It is a true test of our surfing. My tube riding was in mark contrast to the way the Hawaiians surfers at the time rode which was really epitomized by Gerry Lopez the greatest tube rider of all time. They had more of a straight line approach like threading a needle, as our approach was to actually surf inside the tube. It was different and something new. Folks in the surfing world really responded to it, kids always want to see something new and radical and I think we represented that kind of newness.

How is your surfing today?
Yes I am still a very keen surfer I think all of us are. One of the things that comes across in the movie is how much we love to surf and much surfing is part of our lives even though I retired from comps in 1989. 20 years ago. Surfing is maybe more of an important part of my life now.

Quite often you would do battle in competition with MR and Rabbit how did this effect your friendship out of the water?
Yes all of us went head to head and we were incredible rivals for many years. When we were in the water it would be game on whether it was free surfing session or a comps. But on the beach we could still hang out together and be buddies. We knew the friendship ended on the water’s edge and restarted when you got back on the beach!

Back in Hawaii there was a few beatings flying around...
Mark didn't get beat up, Ian and I got beaten up, Rabbet got beaten up a few times. Back then it was almost like a right of passage. It was kind of the wild west back then, it is certainly different today. But the intimidation factor is still there in Hawaii. For anyone who wanted to succeed as a surfer you needed to kop it.

Would you have changed anything if you could relive those years?
No I don't think so I think the article Rabbit wrote and what we said in the press was meant to be disrespectful. Ultimately in the end pro surfing was actually saved by this amazing Hawaiian guy called Eddie Aikau who became a legendary figure in Hawaii. He was lost at sea trying to rescue a replica canoe which was recreating an old ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitian island chains. The boat started to sink so he jumped on his surfboard and paddled into the night never to be seen again. This guy went out on a limb for us guys and took us in.

Who were your other heroes who inspired your style of surfing?
There were certainly a number of guys I looked up to a couple of Australians Midget Farrelly and Nat Young. A few Hawaiian surfers at the time including Reno Abellira. Outside of surfing Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi have really inspired me in life.

Tube Riding style?
The tube riding and style happened organically as a result of this wave in front of were I lived called the Bay of Plenty. It was a really fast take off and super long technically challenged barrel. One had to turn and aggressively manoeuvre inside to make it. I just took this style over to Hawaii.

Was this a similar setup to Pipeline?
It was a lot longer tube in the 'Bay Of Plenty' the techniques I took to Pipeline helped develop my style. Pipeline was more intense than any other wave in the World you had to conquer the fear of the drop. You have to take the drop with absolute commitment. Any hesitation on the drop and you can get nailed on the reef. Every year 3-4 people die at Pipeline. It is a wave a surfer has to come to terms with if they are going to be considered a great surfer.

You won Pipeline, how do you think your style of surfing would hold up against Kelly Slater?
Kelly would eat me for Breakfast! But I think what makes a great surfer today are the same things that made great surfer 30 years ago which is speed, power, aggression, rhythm, style and also imagination. These are the building blocks of a great surfer. Our Generation was the first generation to kind of explore radical surfing and I think what Kelly and other surfers are doing today. It is what people love to watch it’s the fun way to surf put it on edge and surf radically.

It is a shame we missed you in New Zealand....
Yes I was really bloody looking forward to it! My wife and I are dying to come over I was bummed out. Over the years I have loved to watch the All Blacks play. My Father loved rugby and went over on the Spring Box Tour back in the 60's he was rugby mad.

Anymore plans to make more movies?
Yeah I want to make a few more movies. I want to make a Bustin Down The Door into a drama and I am also working on a movie about tube riding which may go into production later this year. I am also working on a few more books. It will be released on DVD around March sometime. Should be out pretty soon. Even if you not a surfer you can go and enjoy it it’s a great story.

Bustin' Down The Door will screen at selected surf spots across New Zealand. In 1975 a group of young Australian & South African surfers revolutionized their sport. Surfing was never to be the same again.


BUSTIN’ DOWN THE DOOR chronicles a tumultuous two-year period of competitive and cultural clashes in the mid-Seventies in surfing’s Mecca – Hawaii’s North Shore of Oahu – as a small crew of Australians and South Africans set out with attitude and determination to change the world of surfing.

Framed around the emerging careers of World Champions-to-be Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Shaun Tomson and Mark Richards, BUSTIN’ documents how these young men risked everything to become the best surfers in the world, and how their courage and vision began a cultural revolution that led to the birth of professional surfing and ultimately what has become today’s billion-dollar surf industry.

Narrated by Academy Award Nominee Edward Norton
The release of BUSTIN’ DOWN THE DOOR in New Zealand follows the successful tour of the film in Australia with Bartholomew, Richards and Tomson. The official website can be found at

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